Sunday, July 3, 2011

3 July 1957 “One Bath, Small House: No Problem”

smallbathsolution When I spotted this ad for Crane appliances the other day in one of my magazines I like it for two reasons: 1) I like, as I have said before, the boldness and take no prisoner approach to decorating modern in the 1950’s. There were new materials, endless colors and by golly, they were going to use them and there was no apologetic mousy attitude for it. I also happen to love Orange and soft blue together. I have soft blue walls with an orange settee in front of it and I found the colors very pleasing, they are complimentary on the color wheel.

2)Now, what really struck me with this add was the genius of the idea: The shared bathroom.

In the 1950’s the average home square footage was around 1000 sq feet and contained one bathroom. Here is an interesting graphic to illustrate then and now.

House size

In 1950 the average American family consisted of 3.6 people sharing a 1,000-square-foot house. By 2004, the average household consisted of 2.7 people sharing a 2,400 square foot house. That’s an increase of 240% in house size in just over half a century, while family size shrank by about 30%

We had smaller homes with more children and less bedrooms and bathrooms and it was simply a matter of getting along. Perhaps a lesson that, if started in the home, might spread out to the country with adults, but I digress.

This got me thinking that with today's foreclosures and many people needing to downsize, a home with a single bathroom might not only be a necessity, but it could actually be a choice. Plumbing is rather expensive and to install a second bathroom can be quite expensive.

Our home is quite small. We live in a 1700’s Half Cape home with one bathroom. As we have no children, it seems more doable, but many people have said to me, “How do you share your bathroom with your husband?” As if I have pots and curling irons and all sorts piled all about. The simple answer to that is the dressing table. All my hot rollers, pins, lotions and potions, pots and make up, perfume, you name it live happily in my dressing table and that is where I sit to do those sorts of things many modern women do in the bathroom. Not sure why, as I used to do it as well, because standing over a sink with hot lights on you is not half as nice as sitting on a padded chair with a three way mirror and lovely little silver boxes around, taking your time.

So, Back to our photograph. What is genius is if you were given the chance to design your bath when building your home, there are some great ideas. The fact that the toilet is separated by an easy to slide door, the bath (roomy too) and shower also can be separated with a gay fun curtain and the main sink area is able to be used while the others are being occupied.

I think this sort of layout would easily apply to a family who is contemplating adding a bathroom. Again, an expensive endeavor as space either needs to be found or built and then the cost of a second set of appliances which will use more energy and cost you more in bills. If one had to address their bathroom needs, certainly making over their one bath, even if they had to steal a bit of space from the adjoining rooms, to make one large bath such as this with shared spaces would be a wonderful solution. Obviously, the decorating style would be adjusted to your own taste and need not be orange and blue. ( I do think the above bathroom would be delightful with a tile floor of smaller tiles, maybe hex, with various shades of orange and then black accents with a blue tile rim around the floor and above the half wall application.)

sharedbath1 Simply giving the toilet its own home really helps with the shared aspect.sharedbath2 What an easy solution without two sinks!

sharedbath3 Great for an easy low cost construction addition of an en suite, if one needed that second bath.

sharedbath4 This is very smart for light, though I would prefer the shower in that spot, rather than waste it on the toilet.

And, if you are to share one bath with a family, using all your vertical space is imperative. These are ingenious solutions.

sharedbath5 This little built in wall rack of towels, display, and small storage would be an easy weekend project with some pine and paint from the local hardware.sharedbath6 And using up a corner like this in part of your divided 3 part shared bathroom plan would even allow you to steal that hall linen closet space for another purpose.

So, if you have to downsize, or if  you find yourself pinching your pennies more, try to live with the space you have. And, rather than add a bathroom, re-invent the one you have and the way in which you use it as a family.

There is a Daily Vintage News today and can be accessed by button or clicking HERE.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. You have inspired me to spend some time today tidying up my one bathroom in our home. It suits out needs just fine and I can organize our linen closet so it serves us better. I also use a vanity for applying makeup and all other beauty things. I love it. It's my own personal space and it's relaxing to use it outside of the bathroom space.

  2. Yes, most of us baby boomers grew up in 3-bedroom 1-bath homes even though many of us came from large families.

    I also remember, though, that we only took a bath once a week (whether we needed it or not), especially if you were from up North where the weather was cooler most of the year.

    We only washed our hair once every week or two, too!

    I also remember my father instructing me to leave the water in the bathtub after I got out of out, so that he could bathe in the same water after I was done!!

    Such low standards of hygene would appall us today.

    By the time I got to high school, I was actually bathing and washing my hair three times a week, but the rest of my family didn't.

    It was only when we moved South that we felt the need to bathe daily, as the weather down there was so hot. So....

    And, yes, we set and combed out our hair and made up our faces in our bedrooms, sometimes at dressing tables.

    All of this meant that bathrooms were not used as much and you did not need two or three of them. Now, we bathe much more and do a lot more grooming and things like that in the bathroom.

    One final word: You have given us a good admonition to use the space we have.

  3. I have a 1,000 sq. foot, one-bedroom apartment. It is a nice size for us, but I can't imagine kids in here! We used to have a two-bathroom apartment and rarely used the 2nd bathroom.

  4. We have two bathrooms for our family of six; an ensuite and a very small family bathroom. Strangely, the bath is in the ensuite, not the family bathroom.

    Our four kids all share the same bathroom and it works well except that Miss 14 claims that her 3 brothers make it 'gross' - and she's probably right!


  5. Thanks for sharing those statistics -- I've alway wondered how the 6 of us living in 1600 square feet (and one bathroom) compared to more "typical" families!

    I love that bahtroom layout -- it seems so enormous compared to ours.

  6. We live in a home built in the late 50's. I think it was a pretty common working class style home. It is around 1000 SQ FT with 1 teeny bathroom.
    During the week it is just me and DH but my step sons are here on the weekends. We have plenty of room for necessity. We rent right now but if we owned the house we might build on a bit to the back. We do plan to have a baby so at that point 3 bedrooms would really be necessary.


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